Coal ash issue needs addressing

Feb. 25, 2014 @ 04:19 AM

It is a very real issue that deserves the full weight and attention of state officials.

But, it’s an issue that should have been addressed long ago.

The Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center and other environmentalists have long warned that the coal ash dumps at Duke Energy’s coal-fired generation plants pose significant risks to the environment and public health.

Lawmakers turned a deaf ear.

Now, just weeks after a coal ash spill at the Dan River near the North Carolina-Virginia border, politicos are standing up and taking notice.

State Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, and Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Hendersonville, now realize the coal ash dump near their homes in Henderson County could be a threat to them personally and they have sprung into action vowing to introduce legislation requiring the elimination of coal ash dumps in the state.

Our question is why did it take the Dan River spill to bring about this sudden outpouring of care for the environment?

It isn’t as if these coal ash dumps are new to the area. Most coal-fired generation plants have them and have had them for years.

But Apodaca and McGrady had to be personally affected before they were willing to act on behalf of thousands of North Carolinians who have been at risk for years.

We understand the issue along the Dan River was caused by a storm water pipe bursting under a coal ash pile, releasing the ash into the river.

So, officials can conclude the problem wasn’t with the ash, but with the pipe. However, if the ash wasn’t there, the pipe burst would have not had the residual effect on the Dan River that spilling thousands of tons of coal ash did.

Private citizens attempted to get action on the coal ash problem by filing a lawsuit against Duke Energy when the state intervened and worked out a deal allowing Duke to pay a paltry $99,111 fine and avoid any requirement to clean up their mess.

The recent spill at the Dan River scuttled that sweetheart of a deal. Duke had proposed covering coal ash dumps with huge tarps to prevent leakage.

Yeah, we shook our heads on that one too.

Tarps would not have prevented the Dan River incident from happening.

While we in Rutherford County can breathe easy according to Duke officials because the Cliffside plant does not have the same situation of a storm water pipe running underneath a coal ash dump, we still don’t believe we should be blind to the problem.

It is time our state leaders become proactive in this situation and take a serious look across the state at these dumps and find real solutions in order to prevent another Dan River situation from happening again.

We can ill-afford to put tarps over our heads so we don’t see the problem.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board


The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Alex Moore, Tom Padgett and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark.